Chapter 3. Sources of help

Table of Contents
3.1. On your system
3.2. On the Internet

There is a wealth of information available about many subjects related to GNU/Linux. Most general documentation applies to Slackware Linux, because the software in the distribution has been compiled from source code that has been altered as little as possible. This chapter provides some pointers to information and documentation that can be found on an installed Slackware Linux system, and on the Internet.

3.1. On your system

3.1.1. Linux HOWTO's

The Linux HOWTOs are a collection of documents which cover specific subjects related to GNU/Linux. Most Linux HOWTOs are not tailored to a specific distribution, therefore they are very useful for Slackware Linux users. The linux-howtos package in the "f" software set contains the HOWTO collection. After installing this package the HOWTOs are available from the /usr/doc/Linux-HOWTOs/ directory. Slackware Linux also contains a small collection of Linux-related FAQs (FAQs are documents that answer Frequently Asked Questions). The Linux FAQs are installed to the /usr/doc/Linux-FAQs/ directory, and are available from the linux-faqs package, which is also part of the "I" software set.

3.1.2. Manual pages

Most UNIX-like commands are covered by a traditional UNIX help system called the manual pages. You can read the manual page of a program with the man(1) command. Executing man with the name of a command as a parameter shows the manual page for that command. For instance,

$ man ls

shows the manual page of the ls command.

If you do not know the exact name of a manual page or command, you can search through the manual pages with a keyword. The (-k) parameter is provided to make use of this facility:

$ man -k rmdir
hrmdir               (1)  - remove an empty HFS directory
rmdir                (1)  - remove empty directories
rmdir                (2)  - delete a directory

The manual page collection is very extensive, and covers more subjects than just commands. The following sections of manual pages are available:

1   Executable programs or shell commands
2   System calls (functions provided by the kernel)
3   Library calls (functions within program libraries)
4   Special files (usually found in /dev)
5   File formats and conventions eg /etc/passwd
6   Games
7   Miscellaneous  (including  macro  packages and conven-
    tions), e.g. man(7), groff(7)
8   System administration commands (usually only for root)
9   Kernel routines [Non standard]

If there is more than one section that has a manual page with a specific name, as with for instance rmdir, you can choose what page you want to see by adding the section number of the manual page before the manual page name. For example:

man 2 rmdir

If you would like to print a manual page to a printer that you have set up, you can pipe the output of man to the lpr(1) command. When the -t parameter of the man command is used, man will output the manual page in Postscript format, rather than ASCII. For example, you can use the following command to print the tar(1) manual page:

$ man -t tar | lpr

3.2. On the Internet

There are many websites and forums related to GNU/Linux and Slackware Linux on the Internet. But many sites often disappear as fast as they appeared, and the information on many web sites is fragmentary. The following resources have been around for a longer time, and provide good content.

3.2.1. The Slackware Linux website

The Slackware Linux website may be a bit outdated at times, but it provides many useful resources:

  • A news page that announces new releases and lists other important news that is relevant to Slackware Linux.

  • An overview of the changes to the distribution is provided in a structured format called a ChangeLog. ChangeLogs are provided for the current development version, as well as the latest stable release.

  • There are two mailing lists to which you can subscribe. The slackware-announce list is used to announce new Slackware Linux releases, and security updates are announced on the slackware-security list.

  • A list of mirrors where you can download Slackware Linux. The mirrors are indexed per country. Additional information such as the download protocols the mirrors support, and the speed of the mirrors is also included.

  • Documentation of various kinds, including a list of frequently asked questions and the Slackware Linux Essentials book.

The Slackware Linux website is available at:

3.2.2. LinuxQuestions

LinuxQuestions is a large GNU/Linux forum with many helpful members. Particularly interesting is the Slackware Linux subforum, where you can seek assistance to help you with problems that you may have with Slackware Linux. The LinuxQuestions forum is available at:

3.2.3. alt.os.linux.slackware

alt.os.linux.slackware is a Slackware Linux newsgroup. You can read newsgroups with a newsreader like tin or slrn, through the newsgroup server of your Internet service provider. On this newsgroup it is expected that you have read all necessary documentation before posting questions. If you have not done that, the chance of getting "flamed" is large.